The Plant Nerd
In this show we complete the Landscape Makeover. Armies of workers have
been busy here for 5 days, doing a lot of work. To this point it hasn't
all been pretty because there has been a lot of tearing up and ripping
out. All of that work has been necessary before the stunning and
Joe summarizes the work done to date. On Sunday we arrived and met our
winner, Carol. Carol was excited and shared with us the many challenges
presented by her property. We then met with the designer of the
project, Korina Qu Petrozzi, owner of her own design company, The Plant
Nerd. Korina created a landscape plan that laid out the extensive
hardscape design and yet another plan for the softscaping. The
demolition crew arrived on Monday and wasted no time pulling everything
out that had accumulated over decades on the property. By day 3 the
demolition crew was digging the trenches for the retaining wall, then
grading and cleaning up. No sooner were they gone than Manny's crew of
skilled masons showed up to set the required gravel in place for a
sound foundation for the retaining wall. The large interlocking stones
were positioned without mortar and the finished result created several
landscape layers that were not only functional but added drama to the
landscape. On day 4 the M&M mason crew began placing the very large
paving stones throughout the backyard to create pathways and patios.
Some of the patios were set with joints close together and filled with
decomposed granite. The lower patio area had joints that were spaced
further apart to accommodate green grout, or a place to tuck in living
ground cover. Finally Jeff Tolly discussed the concept and
implementation of the softscaping. That brings us up to speed from
where we left off. Today's show will take us through completion.
We first meet Bob Barrett who is with John Deere Landscapes in southern
California. Bob feels an irrigation system is important in todays
world, especially in the southern California environment where they're
impacted by water issues and water runoff concerns. A lot of systems
operating today were installed a long time ago. Thus they're watering
the streets, curbs, sidewalks and driveways. That doesn't make sense,
we need to be more prudent and careful about wasting water. Today's
systems are designed so that whether in the front-yard or back-yard
they are designed to apply water where it is needed. To accomplish this
it may require a drip system or a spray system or something in between
but it is important to get the water where it's needed. This ensures
that the grass will grow, that trees and shrubs grow yet not water the
curbs and driveways. With watering restrictions all across the country
and with water conservation concerns, in addition to our busy
lifestyles, it makes sense to have an irrigation system.
Jeff Tolly and his crew are once again hard at work. Right now it's a
dangerous area with open trenches but they soon will be filled in.
Today they're installing the irrigation system. Jeff walks us through
the things he thinks about when installing an irrigation system. First
he must establish a point of connection. Normally they tap off the main
line coming from the meter to the house. They run that line to a set
manifold, which distributes the water through the different zones. The
different zones are important because the lawn gets watered more than
shrubs and sunny areas get watered more than shady areas. So, it's
important to divide the yard into zones. Jeff also establishes a
central control system with a Hunter timer, which makes everything
completely automated. The guys are hard at work placing the lateral
lines, then will set the sprinkler heads. Every head has a nozzle which
distributes water differently and there are different sprinkler heads
that deliver water at different application rates. Those are fine tuned
at the end.
The plants are being delivered on a semi truck. Carol thinks it's
phenomenal, the colors are beautiful. Carol and Joe look at some of the
plants. One is a Salvia. It will get taller and will be a magnet for
butterflies and hummingbirds. Carol knows her granddaughter will like
this bush because she loves butterflies. Carol has always wanted plants
that attract butterflies but never knew which ones to select. They
continue unloading the plants from the truck. Carol is overwhelmed.
Korina and Joe next talk about the plants. Joe is jealous, he wants
these for his house. Korina is equally impressed with the quality of
the plants and is amazed to see the unreal sizes and beautiful,
well-established, full bloomed plants. She feels very lucky to work
with these plants, they are as top quality as one can get. Typically a
5 gallon Hydrangea is about 1/3 the size of these plants, plus they're
not typically full of blooms and buds. Joe notices the difference when
picking up the plants. Even the 1 gallons feel weighty, that means they
have a substantial root ball which means they will hit the ground
running when planted. They'll take off and establish quickly. They look
at some of Korina's favorite plants.
She selected the Endless Summer Hydrangea because she wanted some
hydrangeas in the front yard. There are several large trees there, it's
a little shadier and around the coast hydrangeas do well in sun and
shade. The Endless Summer variety bloom is beautiful but importantly it
blooms on both old wood and new wood. With older style hydrangeas if
they were pruned on new wood they wouldn't get a flower bloom in the
spring or summer. For a homeowner that doesn't do a lot of gardening
this is a great choice because they don't need to know how to prune it
Korina also likes the Regal Mist Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris, Regal
Mist) also known as muhly grass. She loves using grasses. This one is
sparkly and has a nice light feel. It is great when the sun hits it.
Thus, it's a great selection for the sun. Carol nearly cried when this
plant came off the truck.
Korina also likes ground cover roses like the Flower Carpet series.
They're prolific and because they have a long season here they almost
never stop blooming. For people that want a lot of color but don't want
a lot of maintenance this is a great choice. They're a fairly disease
resistant rose and that too is a huge plus.
Lorope talum is another great plant. Korina says people are always
impressed with them, they have fantastic foliage color. This variety,
'Sizzling Pink' is unreal. When in bloom it's loaded with color but
even when the weather changes and cooler temperatures occur it retains
its bronze foliage throughout the rest of the seasons.
Korina's next job is spotting the plants, which is the final stage
before the plant material goes in. Once everything is spotted, where
it's supposed to go, she does some tweaking and makes changes to
accommodate for proper spacing. She then steps back to make sure
everything looks good, then gives the thumbs up and the guys start
planting. Even though Korina had something in her plan that doesn't
necessarily mean that's where it will go. It's rare that everything
goes exactly to plan. For example, borrowed scenery may have an impact.
Today she made a decision to make a change. She had a shade tree
specified for one spot but found that there is a neighbors tree in the
same vicinity and it was providing perfect shade, thus felt it would be
a conflict of space so she shifted the tree to another area.
More and more of the pieces of the puzzle are arriving. When the sod
gets here you know you're close to the end. Jim Shaw is our sod expert.
Jim is with Superior Sod and is responsible for getting this sod to the
job in a timely fashion. This is Turf Type Tall Fescue and is the most
popular variety in southern California. Most people like fescue because
it stays green year round. Homeowners don't want their sod going
dormant in the wintertime. This stays green year round, is a nice lush
grass, is great for kids and pets and is easy to maintain. Fescue is
one of the more shade tolerant varieties when compared to other species
like blue grasses and rye grasses. But it still requires about 6 hours
of sunlight a day to do its best. Particularly compared to a warm
season grass like bermuda, fescue does a lot better in the shade.
Bermudas are more of a full sun, summer type grass and don't do as well
in the shade as fescues.
It's amazing the difference the sod makes once in. It's like night and
day difference. Joe talks with Jeff Tolly about sod installation. Once
laid Jeff thinks it important that the homeowner stay off the new sod
for awhile. It will be watered 2 or 3 times a day at first and it's
very soft. Keep traffic off until the 1st mowing which will occur
during the 1st or 2nd week. But monitor the growth. Just before mowing
back off the watering so the lawnmower doesn't sink in. Jeff treats it
like wet concrete. Stay off it until the 1st mowing, then keep heavy
traffic off for the next 3 or 4 weeks. Jeff likes tall fescue in this
application. It absorbs filtered sun light and full sun. It's a great
seed blend and a great application for this project.
Jeff and his crew are almost finished with the sod. They've used a
bender board and are tucking the sod into the edge, which creates a
nice, sharp, clean edge. This is a bunch grass, thus doesn't infiltrate
into the planted beds. The bender board is just utilized for the nice,
Joe is impressed. Just a few hours ago there was a huge collection of
unplanted plants in the front yard, and now almost everything is in
place. Joe wants to know "What is the process and what's the difference
between a landscape that's sustainable, one that's going to endure for
a period of time?" Jeff feels it all starts with good bed preparation,
using proper soil amendments and fertilizers to give the plants a
healthy start. He thinks that soil amendments are the meat and potatoes
of garden bed prep. The plants need them thus one needs to pay
attention to them. The guys started the day prepping the beds, clearing
them out, getting them nice and composted then placing the plants.
Although they worked very fast it's a careful process. There is a right
way and wrong way to plant plants. They always over-dig the hole,
making it approximately 2 times the size of the root ball. This gives
the plant plenty of aeration and good water infiltration which allows
the plant a good chance to grow. Don't plant the plant too deeply. If
that is done it could actually rot out the cambium and that's not good.
It's important to get the plant at the soil level it was growing in the
container or a little higher. You want positive runoff from the plants.
Then give it proper water and fertilization and it should be just fine.
After watering the plant in they come back with a beautiful layer of
mulch. That's important in several ways. One, aesthetically this
topical application makes it look far cleaner and is more beautiful
than plain soil. Mulch also breaks down, gives back to the soil and
adds nutrients. Thirdly, it provides good weed control by shading out
weed seeds that might come up through the soil. Thus, mulch provides
many good benefits and it looks good. It does look good. Jeff and his
crew have done an amazing job. Thanks Jeff.
Joe next talks with Korina about the finished project. It's 5 days
after we first met and at that time the yard was a mess, it was
neglected. Korina is very, very happy with how it turned out. She's
incredibly impressed that it did happen, particularly in such a short
period of time for such a large project. This involved a lot of
construction, hardscape, irrigation, new lawn, new planting lines. In
short, it's impressive.
They look at the front yard. It's peaceful and there are several
reasons for that. It's shady but as well the undulations and curves
created with the bender board have a big impact. This was a very square
yard and closed off from the street. In order to give it a more
peaceful look she utilized the bender board to curve the lawn area. The
curves give it a peaceful look but as well provide the opportunity to
have different depths of planting around it. So, instead of just 1
linear line with 1 sort of plant there can be a variety of plant
material. There are grandchildren that visit and this shady area will
be sought after in the summertime. The lawn here will consequently most
likely be used more than the backyard.
Joe thinks the front is great but the back is where the big changes
took place. It's now hard to recall but before there were old dying
trees, multi-levels and crumbling concrete. In the beginning Joe
couldn't fully envision the change but it has been transformed and is
beautiful. Previously the trees were poorly managed and there wasn't
any real hardscape. It was just old stuff that had been thrown together
over time and was makeshift. Because nothing could be salvaged the
backyard was gutted, everything was torn out. Korina kept the different
levels. There wasn't really an option, which was fine, because the
landscape turned out more interesting because of the levels. Most of
the properties in this area are not on hills, this one is on a hill.
There's a slope from 1 end of the property to the other and it's
probably a 2 to 2 and 1/2 foot difference. The different levels were
essential in order to make those spaces as functional as possible.
Importantly the different levels enabled Korina to utilize the patios
for tables and chairs. The same is true for the grass area, you don't
want it to be on a slope. Thus building the retaining walls and holding
in the soil is important. The retaining walls also serve as additional
seating which is important. The 2nd tier down is the grass tier. Here
she's added plantings on both sides which softens the area and makes it
more visually interesting. The 3rd tier or mid tier is probably the
most important tier because that is where the house and alley (where
most people park) connect as well as the pathway to the living spaces.
The lower tier instead of using the decomposed granite grouting
technique between stones, uses green grout or plant material. Here the
living plant material provides a more lively, inviting look and is
quite a bit different from the upper areas. Importantly, it has a
cooling effect to it. It just feels cooler in this area. And it
softens the hardscape. Korina has taken a relatively small space and
with 4 different levels, that are all different but work well together,
has miraculously over the past 5 days remade this landscape. Joe tells
Korina that she has done a great job. Everyone has enjoyed working with
Joe next shows Carol the back yard finished project. Carol can't
believe what's happened. It's a dream come true, it is what they asked
for and more. They wanted plantings that were in keeping with the
design and time of the cottage. She thinks it has a country feel, a
beach feel, it has everything. It has an area for entertaining, a place
for the kids to play in the grass, a place to sunbathe. It has trees,
flowers and color. It's got everything, all the goals that Korina and
Carol discussed. Korina made it all happen.
They walk around, look at and talk about some of the added features.
There are some beautiful containers. They add impact at the corner
where placed. They provide dimension and color. Carol feels she would
never know how to do that herself. She notices the window boxes on the
garage. Before that area looked plain, dirty, now it's green. The
planters add dimension and dress up the area with a simple application.
There are trellises. One is against a wall and adds interest. Another 2
trellises block an area that had a lot of service items, things like
pipes. This being a 1923 house, the pipes were on the outside at that
time. The trellises are covered with vines which will fill in and
really cover the area. Carol never knew what to do in this area, how to
conceal the pipes. These work beautifully. And they're natural and
green. Carol just can't believe the transformation, it's just unreal.
They next look at the front yard. Carol thinks it too is fabulous and
in keeping with the cottage look. But it's updated, it's soft and
mellow, looks inviting and it's beautiful. Korina originally told Carol
to choose a color palate, Carol liked lavenders and pinks. These colors
are evident in the new plantings. It now has an irrigation system which
should ensure the plants stay green and growing. There are all
different varieties of plants here and all are beautiful. It has a look
that says - this is a cottage - but it's inviting and pretty.
Carol likes everything, even the little touches. She notices the rocks
Korina has placed within the garden. It all goes well together. The
pots framing the window in the front add a nice touch, they provide
interest and character. Carol even likes the mulch. She likes the shape
of the grass, it's not just a straight line, it provides a flow. Carol
says it's beautiful and thanks Joe. It's beautiful and exciting.
Carol next meets with Jeff Tolly, Manny Cruz, Korina Petrozzi and Joe.
She thanks everyone for doing a great job. Carol didn't dream this
could be done, particularly in such a short period of time. It's a
miracle. Carol thanks everyone, especially Garden Smart for choosing
her to be the winner. She promises to continue to watch the show so she
can continue to grow and learn and understand how to care for all of
this. Carol from the bottom of her heart and from her whole family
thank everyone in the group. She couldn't be more pleased.
It truly has been an impressive experience. A lot of work in a short
period of time but the end result makes it all worthwhile. Thanks to
all that entered. We're proud to have such a large and engaged
audience. The Landscape Makeover Contest was a rewarding experience for
all of us at Garden Smart.
M & M Masonry - Manuel Cruz (714-974-2716)
John Deere Landscapes
Wayside Gardens and Accessories
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By Dan Heims, president, Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.
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